The skybus dropped them off at their assigned quarters.
New Terra had welcomed them without much pomp and ceremony. The shuttles and teleporters had disgorged the refugees on the outskirts of New Amsterdam, officials handing out living quarter assignments to each family unit. They had been given generous living allowances for their first six months, with the opportunity of jobs for those with skills.
The skybuses had then driven them away, many to a new network of pre-fabricated buildings built on the western edge of the super-city. It was being called Geletti Borough by the politicians, but Langton had already heard several mutter the term “Wrong Paradise”.
On the outside, it seemed like it was paradise, a haven for those who had suffered incredibly. But many recognised it for what it was: somewhere to put the refugees to keep them happy and out of sight.
Langton felt sick at the thought.
But Ophelia seemed to be enjoying the new opportunity.
She already had some potential clients thanks to her contacts.
He had been offered a job as well.
By Navy Intelligence.
He had told the rep to go frag himself.
Edward and Jameson were enrolled in local schools.
It was a new beginning, one he planned to take advantage of.
The building itself was in a terrace, the neighbours relatively friendly.
Langton greeted them as they entered the premises. They were quite happy to be here.
“Langton Brightfold,” he greeted peaceably, shaking the father’s hand.
“Caamin Vin-Bornn,” the other said. “Glad to have you next door.”
Langton couldn’t help but smile at his enthusiasm. “And you.”
Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all.
The freighter roared down onto the small landing platform. It settled onto its landing claws with a mechanical clank and a hydraulic hiss. The ship, dubbed Idle Gun by M’Der, came to a complete rest.
The two brothers strode down the ramp.
“So what now, brother?” asked Row.
M’Der shrugged, and looked at the sky.
“Not sure. I have an itching to become a historian again. I did train to be one before joining the Ministry of Justice.”
Row scoffed. “You could come with me.”
“And be one of your underlings?” M’Der smiled. It was a tempting thought for both of them. “I’m good. There’s a whole universe to explore out there that I haven’t seen yet. Maybe I’ll discover something and become famous again.”
“Famous Historian, huh?” Row smiled. His eyes narrowed suspiciously. “You’re going to search for the Wrath Stone aren’t you?”
M’Der’s face fell. “I…. yes. It’s my only chance of redemption.”
Row sighed; there was so much he wanted to say on the subject, but he knew it would not be heard even if he spoke.
“Good luck, brother.”
M’Der nodded, “Thankyou. What about you? Where will you go?”
In response, he tapped the ship’s hull. “Go back to pirating. There’s plenty here to be had on Port Tempa. Hmmm, think of a name though.” He looked at the ship, an idea forming. “Idle Guns. Brilliant! Let’s go and have one last drink to celebrate!”
4th February, 3900ad.
The ship was alive once again.
The repairs, though extensive, had been completed at the Proxima Shipyards, the ship having struggled to reach the Linkway to get to Proxima. Now they had new orders, and a refreshed crew.
Vivaera was at her new station, as tactical officer, her injuries healed.
She beamed with pride at her friend’s new station.
The crew she had cobbled together from the ship’s ruins were now with her.
Commander Scarlett, her promotion confirmed, sat in her command chair. She didn’t look at the black scratch the engineers hadn’t been able to get out of the deck. It marked the captain’s last moments, and Commander Lin’War’s.
The Minotaur was ready.
“Shipyard Control has given us the green light, ma’am,” reported the XO.
“Thankyou, Lieutenant Commander,” she smiled.
Oknoff shrugged, still adjusting to his position. Before, he had been universally hated for all the wrong reasons. Scarlett would see to it that that would change for the better.
“Take us out, XO,” she ordered.
She was nervous, but they were under orders to investigate a spatial anomaly in the Andromeda galaxy, something not encountered. It would do the crew good to see something so incredible and baffling.
“Aye, Commander. Helm, disengage all moorings and docking clamps, set thrusters to half, and then set a course for 12-34-6 Sector in the Andromeda galaxy.”
The helmsman, the same young man that had piloted the ship out of the remains of the 1st Fleet, smiled and set the heading.
The Minotaur thrummed around them, and the engines pushed the cruiser out of the shipyards and into space proper. It diverted as the great HMS Atlantis rumbled past, the High Admiral’s flagship headed for New Terra.
Jessica Scarlett watched it go.
Maybe one day, she mused.
Captain Gardner raced through the jungle.
His fatigues clung to him like glue, the heat of the monsoon incredible. At least the rain was keeping him from getting sticky and chafing. He leaped over a fallen tree, and then ducked under another.
Branches cracked, and he followed the noise, twisting his path to match.
His target was ahead.
It had been an easy mission so far.
Until the primary target had slipped out during his insertion into the mercenary compound. Most of the troops had been taken care of, but it had been enough to allow the target to run and hide.
The Navy were already blasting the compound far behind him, but their sensors wouldn’t be able to penetrate the odd properties of the trees. He could hear the crump of detonations and the fizzing and whistling of the massive plasma rounds sailing down from orbit.
The jungle was quiet, the Navy’s bombardment scaring the local wildlife away from the area. Even the big predators he had glimpsed on the way in were nowhere to be seen.
In truth, he had wanted to join Deniv and his cause, but his duty was to Terra, or the memory of it, his superiors wanting to show the universe that the Terran military was still a might to be feared. They had lost their homeworld, but they were still superior.
There, he said, catching a slash of shoulders and long blue hair. He’s headed for the river.
Gardner altered his run, charging slightly to the left, knowing this copse of trees would lead around to the bend in the river. It took a bit more effort, his legs aching by the time he got to the top of the little ridge, but he knew it was worth it when he heard the roar of the river.
He unslung his plasma carbine, holding it loose until he burst from the trees.
He almost tipped over, his momentum potentially throwing him into the river from the top of the cliff that appeared close to his feet.
Heart pounding, the weapon was up to his shoulder, aiming low.
The figure appeared out of the trees, nearly tipping over as well. He turned round to find Gardner’s weapon in his face.
The mercenary’s green face was pale and sweating despite the hot rain.
“Garvion Daesh,” Gardner greeted. “I’ve been looking for you.”
The Geletti Borough had been a haven for him.
Most thought him to be a good egg, working hard for a local hovercar manufacturer.
But when he saw an armoured money transfer vehicle pass by him, he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he would always be a criminal. Thievery was his life.
And I’ll never love anything more, he smiled to himself, already hatching an insane plan.
She was minding her own business when the invasion began over a month ago.
But because of her status, because of her husband, she had become a target for the Grag. They had seen her as a symbol, and thus wanted to take her out of the equation. But the Defence Force had refused to let her die, themselves seeing her as a symbol.
There had been no word of her husband, though the news of Terra’s demise had panicked many.
But still no news.
The government had been destroyed, along with a fair majority of the military, the rest going to ground, taking her with them.
Their current base was an old bunker from the previous war, not marked on any map so as to fall into the wrong hands. The Grag, for now, didn’t know they were all here.
Dia Draliv, husband of the Hero of the Grag War, was attending to the temporary mess hall, helping serve the food, even cleaning where she could. Many of them seemed embarrassed that she had to help, but she didn’t mind. It was what she wanted to do; it kept her mind off the possibilities of her husband’s fate.
Three men wrapped in traveller’s robes that carried themselves tall like experienced soldiers stood at the cusp of the hall. One of them nodded to her, and she briefly contemplated the idea that maybe the Grag had infiltrated the facility.
But no, there was no way they could get down there so far.
Several of the Defence Force followed in their wake.
Their heads were swathed in dirty scarves, all were armed and had thick riding gloves. They were veterans, and judging by the scorches on their clothes, they had seen plenty of action. Those that defended the bunker seemed to be chattering quietly to each other, pointing to them.
The three marched over to her.
“Dia?” the central figure said, his voice muffled by the scarf.
Hope sprung in her at the voice.
Nobody here called her that.
The three started unwrapping their scarves and shawls.
The young faces that greeted her were a surprise. She had never seen a Terran in real life, but she recognised the description. Two of them flanked the central figure, and her hopes were starting to crumble.
The third figure was a native of Litin.
She didn’t recognise him.
“Dia Draliv?” he said.
She nodded, her bottom lip trembling.
“This is Lieutenant Markeros and Chief Petty Officer Wallen of the Terran Navy. I am Commander Deniv of the Defence Force. I was your husband’s aide on Terra. I’m afraid I have come to tell you of his fate.”
Eight weeks later.
His father was waiting for him.
He was angry, he knew.
The Announcer had told him as such; but his father wore plain robes, his illness still invisible, still hiding behind the veneer of rage and hate that defined his rule.
Yh’reth’van, Master of Shadows, stepped into the Patriarch’s presence.
The throne room was devoid of anybody, not even the Iron Wraiths.
The royal fortress on Nocturne sat directly below the great flagship Rage, its hull nearing completion in orbit. It would be a masterpiece of destruction and death, a true warship. Thousands of ships orbited around it as well, waiting for the word. But for now, the Patriarch’s fleets roamed the galaxy outsiders knew as Y-40.
The cold forbidding fortress, obsidian and deathly, was nothing like Yh’reth’van had witnessed in his travels.
But that was the point, he knew.
“[My son,]” the Patriarch growled.
Yh’reth’van didn’t bow. He was the eldest, and the Patriarch’s spymaster, he didn’t feel the need to show grovelling like his youngest brother, Yh’reth’gar.
“[You disobeyed me.]”
Yh’reth’van frowned, looking at his mutated father. The Patriarch’s long shaggy hair was a constant reminder that not all Core were the same, that perhaps there was some genetic misgivings on the universe’s part. He was certain that this was the cause of his father’s deteriorating health. A massive set of powered armour stood ready to help him.
“[I…. yes, father.]”
“[Hunh. At least you admit it, I suppose.]” His voice was deep and craggy like the mountains, gravelly like an avalanche.
“[The Terrans needed to be shown they are not invincible.]”
The Patriarch nodded, biting his inner lip.
“[Aye, that they did. Were you discovered?]”
“[No, father,]” he replied proudly. “[Those that did, did not survive long.]”
“[Good. Then perhaps it is time we started making those preparations you are so bent on, eh? Come, Yh’reth’van, let me show you the future. Terra’s destruction was only the beginning. In a while, we shall show the universe what we are made of.]” He touched a control on the arm of his throne, and a large monitor folded out of an unseen hole.
It flickered to life.
“[Here is the secret to our success. A living Builder.]”
Yh’reth’van looked with amazement. On the screen was what looked to be a human female, clamped and chained to a set of intravenous pipework, striped Core scientists beavering around her.
The female looked up, and straight through the camera, weak but defiant.
“Where is my son?” asked Cassandra Caine.